Heita and Biðja
Excerpt from Æfinrúnar- Book 1
It is important in our practice to examine and understand the nature of ritual and how its fundamental mechanics work, in order for us to be able to effectively establish a foundational basis for what we are doing. The idea here is that we use source material to develop both actions and words so that we create a sacred tradition linked to our ancestral ways, while giving us a proper spiritual course for today. The idea is not to simply recreate actions from books, but rather to install a system of ancestral wisdom connected through sound research that can stretch into the fields of lore, philosophy, eschatology, and so much more. Once a full system is developed, we can confidently say that our faith is reborn, never to be lost to us again.
The nature of prayer and invocation demonstrates to us a fundamental view on divinity itself, which displays an outlook toward the Gods. In this sense, we must properly research how our ancestors considered worship and how this applies to us today. Understanding that the view towards the Gods and how we pray to them are intrinsically linked is key to recognizing the nature of our ritual practice. In order to do this, we must look at all of the sources regarding worship and practice and how this was recognized in ancient times. In every instance we see that the Gods are seen as higher powers, as beings worthy of devotion and reverence, and their worship is an absolute recognition of this. Prostration, genuflection, and devotion are a part of our faith, just as they are a part of any faith, and we will see this clearly in actually looking at the source material:
En þeim sýndist þetta ráðlegt. Ganga nú út í Eyrarhvolsodda og rista þar upp úr jörðu jarðarmen svo að báðir endar voru fastir í jörðu og settu þar undir málaspjót, það er maður mátti taka hendi sinni til geirnagla. Þeir skyldu þar fjórir undir ganga, Þorgrímur, Gísli, Þorkell og Vésteinn. Og nú vekja þeir sér blóð og láta renna saman dreyra sinn í þeirri moldu er upp var skorin undan jarðarmeninu og hræra saman allt moldina og blóðið; en síðan féllu þeir allir á kné og sverja þann eið að hver skal annars hefna sem bróður síns og nefna öll goðin í vitni.
Well, they all thought that good counsel; and after that they went out of their booth to the point of the "ere," and there cut up a sod of turf in such wise that both its ends were still fast to the earth, and propped it up by a spear scored with rúnar, so tall that a man might lay his hand on the socket of the spear-head. Under this yoke they were all four to pass–Þórgrímr, Gisli, Þórkel, and Vesteinn. Now they breathe each a vein, and let their blood fall together on the mould whence the turf had been cut up, and all touch it; and afterwards they all fall on their knees and were to take hands, and swear to avenge each the other as though he were his brother, and to call all the gods to witness. -Gísla Saga Sursonnar ch. 4.
Est et alia luco reverentia: nemo nisi vinculo ligatus ingreditur, ut minor et potestatem numinis prae se ferens. Si forte prolapsus est, attolli et insurgere haud licitum: per humum evolvuntur. Eoque omnis superstitio respicit, tamquam inde initia gentis, ibi regnator omnium deus, cetera subiecta atque parentia. Adicit auctoritatem fortuna Semnonum.
Another observance shows their reverence for this grove. No one may enter it unless he is bound with a cord, by which he acknowledges his own inferiority and the power of the deity. Should he chance to fall, he may not raise himself or get up again, but must roll out over the ground. The grove is the centre of their whole religion. It is regarded as the cradle of the race and the dwelling-place of the supreme god to whom all things are subject and obedient. The Semnones gain prestige from their prosperity. –Tacitus' Germania ch. 39
The moment their boats reach this dock every one of them disembarks, carrying bread, meat, onions, milk and alcohol (nabīdh), and goes to a tall piece of wood set up . This piece of wood has a face like the face of a man and is surrounded by small figurines behind which are long pieces of wood set up in the ground. he reaches the large figure, he prostrates himself before it and says, “Lord, I have come from a distant land, bringing so many slave-girls such and such per head and so many sables such and such per pelt.” He continues until he has mentioned all of the merchandise, he has brought with him, then says, “And I have brought this offering,” leaving what he has brought with him in front of the piece of wood, saying, “I wish you to provide me with a merchant who has many dīnārs and dirhams and who will buy from me whatever I want without haggling over the price I fix.” Then he departs. If he has difficulty in selling and he has to remain too many days, he returns with a second and third offering. If his wishes prove to be impossible, he brings an offering to every single one of those figurines and seeks its intercession, saying, “These are the wives, daughters and sons of our Lord.” He goes up to each figurine in turn and questions it, begging its intercession and grovelling before it. Sometimes business is good and he makes a quick sell, at which point he will say, “My Lord has satisfied my request, so I am required to recompense him.” He procures a number of sheep or cows and slaughters them, donating a portion of the meat to charity and taking the rest and casting it before the large piece of wood and the small ones around it. He ties the heads of the cows or the sheep to that piece of wood set up in the ground. At night, the dogs come and eat it all, but the man who has done all this will say, “My Lord is pleased with me and has eaten my offering.” –The Risāla of Ibn Fadlan
Valdamarr konungr elskaði svá sem hann væri hans eigin sonr, ok lét læra hann á vígfimi ok riddaraskap ok alsháttar íþróttir, ok hǫfðíngliga hæfversku; hann fékk ok skjótari skilning á allri atgervi enn flestir menn aðrir; en einn var sá lutr at konúngi mislíkaði við hann, at hann vildi aldri dýrðka heiðin skurðgoð, ok setti hug sinn mjök í mót öllum blótskap; jafnan fór hann með konúngi til hofs, en aldri gekk hann inn, stóð hann úti hjá hofsdurum, meþan konúngr fórnfærði goðonum; konúngr ræddi um opt, at hann skyldi eigi svá gera, at hann fengi reiði guðanna, ok týndi þarfur blóma ' æsku sinnar, ok því bið ek þik, segir konúngr, at þú vegsamir guðin ok mýkir þik til þeirra með lítillæti, þvíat ella er ek hræddr um, at þau steypi yfir þik nökkurri ógn sinnar stormsam ligrar ógnar ok grimðar, svá mikit sem þú átt í hættu.
King Valdamar loved Olaf as his own son, and had him instructed in feats of arms, chivalry, and manly exercises of all kinds, as well as princely behavior; and Olaf was quick beyond all others to gain a knowledge of every accomplishment. There was one thing in him which the King disliked, and one only: he would never bow down before heathen Skurðgoðar, and he set his mind firmly against Blót practices. Olaf attended the King regularly to the Hof, but never went inside; he stood outside by the Hof doors while the King made offerings to the Gods. The King often spoke to Olaf about his conduct, and urged him not to bring on himself the anger of the Gods, and thereby destroy the promise of his youth. "I beg you, therefore," said the King, "to honor the Gods, and humble yourself with all lowliness before them; otherwise, I fear, they will pour out upon you some of the terrors of their stormy and fierce anger. Such is the great peril in which you are." –Ólaf Tryggvassons Saga (Fornmannasǫgur version) ch. 57
En er hann kom á þing, þá váru sumir bœndr komnir; þá sá þeir mikinn fjölda búanda fara til þings, ok báru í milli sín mannlíkan mikit, glæst alt með gulli ok silfri. En er þat sá bœndr, þeir er á þinginu váru, þá hljópu þeir allir upp ok lutu því skrimsli. Síðan var þat sett á miðjan þingvöll.
And when he got to the assembly, then some of the farmers had arrived. Then they saw a great multitude of farmers coming to the assembly and carrying between them a huge image of a person, adorned with gold and silver. And when the farmers that were at the assembly saw that, then they all leapt up and bowed down to this monstrosity. After that it was placed in the middle of the assembly field. –Ólafs Saga Hins Helga ch. 113